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Publication Agreement Language

This guide provides some questions and language to consider when reading through and negotiating a publication agreement.

The words "General Notes" in yellow font on a blue background with a sticky note and pen beside it

  • When you receive the publisher's agreement, read it carefully.
  • Contract negotiations take time, and can occur in a sporadic fashion. Have patience, and persist in getting a fair agreement.
  • Do not feel pressured to sign a contract early on, or throughout the negotiation process, due to reminders from the publisher to do so. These are often automated, and should not be taken as indication of impatience on the part of the publisher.
  • Retain copies of the signed agreement for your records and future reference. This will be helpful if you ever want to use your work in the future, pen related works, etc., and need to know your rights and the rights of the publisher.

Before agreeing to publish:

  • Consider your goals for your work.  If you sign away your rights, you may find you can't do the following without the publisher's permission.

    • Post your work to your own web site, an institutional repository (MOspace, for example), or a discipline-based repository;
    • Use your work as the basis for future articles or other works;
    • Copy your work for distribution to your students;
    • Use your work in your own online class;
    • Grant permission to faculty and students at your own or other universities to use the material.
  • Consider whether your rights as an author are supported in the agreement.  If you don't like what you see, you can often negotiate more favorable terms.  In fact, many publishers, including the largest commercial publishers, have already created other standard agreements allowing for more favorable terms than the initial default agreement.  You just have to ask for them.

    • The SHERPA/RoMEO site includes an extensive database of publisher's policies regarding the self-archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories.
    • The SPARC web site includes a generic authors' addendum which reserves copyrights to the author.
    • The Science Commons web site maintains a "Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine," a tool which allows you to generate a customized statement to append to a publishing agreement.

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"Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts" by Author's Alliance is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Evans-Walls, T. M. (2005). Literary law guide for authors : copyright, trademark, and contracts in plain language (2nd ed.). FYOS Entertainment.

Legal Disclaimer

The information provided throughout this guide does not constitute legal advice, and should not be interpreted as such. While your resident librarians would be happy to try and assist with any questions, we are unable to provide legal advice and may need to refer you to a lawyer or agent.